The Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site has begun dissolving uranium fuel cores from Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s High Flux Isotope Reactor for the first time since 1988.
The spent fuel will help deliver electricity to residents in the Tennessee Valley.
The High Flux Isotope Reactor is fueled by highly enriched uranium, which the Savannah River Site down-blends into lower-enriched uranium that can be used to power nuclear reactors.
Right now, the Savannah River Site in South Carolina stores 120 radioactive cores from ORNL’s reactor, which produces neutrons that have been used in high-impact scientific experiments.
The Savannah Site stopped dissolving the cores about 20 years ago to process fuel from other reactors.
But during the hiatus, Oak Ridge National Laboratory did not stop conducting research at the reactor. Now, the Savannah River Site is at its maximum capacity for the cores, which must be stored underwater to reduce their radiation rates.
ORNL’s storage space will also reach max capacity in 2020, so the Department of Energy directed the South Carolina plant to begin dissolving ORNL’s fuel again.
The Site had to reconfigure one dissolver and replace a second one to begin down-blending the reactor fuel.
But, now Monte Volk, Savannah River Site spokesman, said the plant could process up to 200 cores from ORNL’s reactor this year.
“Processing this fuel creates additional storage capacity and allows Environmental Management to recycle the uranium,” Volk said.
He said the recycled uranium would be used to fuel Tennessee Valley Authority’s nuclear power plants.
TVA is part of an agreement between the Department of Energy and certain nuclear fuel contractors to take spent highly enriched uranium and blend it into lower enriched uranium to fuel nuclear units.
TVA spokesman Jim Hopson said TVA has used recycled uranium in its Browns Ferry reactors since 2005. The last batch was loaded into the reactors last year.
Source: knox news